Three dimensional transient analyses of Charpy impact specimens are carried out. The material response is characterized by an elastic-viscoplastic constitutive relation for a porous plastic solid, with adiabatic heating due to plastic dissipation and the resulting thermal softening accounted for. The onset of cleavage is taken to occur when the average of the maximum principal stress over a specified volume attains a critical value. The weld analyzed here is overmatched, so that the yield strength for the weld is larger than that of the base material. Analyses are carried out for specimens where the notch is cut parallel to the surface of the test piece, as well as more complex geometries where the notched surface of the specimen is rotated relative to the surface of the test piece. It is found that even for a homogeneous material the brittle-ductile transition can be much affected by three dimensional effects; for example, curvature of the deformed free surface gives rise to a stress increase that promotes cleavage. Furthermore, for the rotated specimens the weld geometry relative to the notched specimen surface is so complex that only a full 3D analysis is able to account for the interaction of failure in the weld material, base material and heat affected zone (HAZ). For these rotated specimens the location where the notch crosses the thin layer of HAZ, i.e. whether this location is near the center of the specimen or near the free specimen edge, makes a large difference in the response. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.